Red Sun at Night, Sailor’s Delight

March 17th, 2017
Date: March 17, 2017, noon Position: 26 5.38 N, 78 4.72 W

Tonight the sun went red to bed, with the promise of a good day ahead…our final sunset on the high seas! The passage is winding down so sweetly, and Privateer is hissing through the low seas of the Northwest Providence Channel. Overnight we will cross the Gulf Stream and with luck, should make West Palm Beach right around sunrise. The American sky is lit up with the glow of Miami and filled with the twinkling lights of countless aircraft. Freighters and cruise ships come and go from every point on the horizon and it’s a bit like a game of dodge-ball out here.

We have sailed 7,000 NM in the past 60 days: The distance equivalent of Minneapolis to Auckland, NZ. Or, if you aim another direction, Minneapolis to Mumbai, India. All by the free power of the wind! Day and night we’ve sailed, through squalls and high seas and the long lonely stretches of the Trade winds. Over the horizon and far beyond.

Last night the winds piped up as we sailed past the “Hole-in-the-Wall” entrance to the Providence channels, confirming my good decision to wait out the previous blow 70 NM out to sea from there. We had a bit of a last rodeo, pressed hard into the wind, but we were just barely able to keep our course angle and sail throughout the night without having to tack. Like clockwork, the winds began to veer in our favor as we got deeper into the channel and the seas flattened out once we gained the protection of the “cays” (islands). All day today we’ve had pleasant beam-reaching in 14-17 knots and flat seas.

I can tell Privateer is happy to be here. She’ll have a good time in Florida while we are away for awhile, and have a well-deserved rest! I passed my eyes over every inch of the good ship today, making mental notes about what we need to do upon lay-up. All broken and worn gear will be stripped off the boat and return with us to Minneapolis for TLC and repair. I am still keen to sail Privateer up to higher latitudes to give the cockroaches a taste of old man winter, but that will have to wait. The weather north of here has been and still looks horrendous, and we’ve simply run out of time to passage any further north. The sea-lorn sailors are coming home!!

On Our Way!!

March 16th, 2017
Date: March 16, 2017, noon Position: 25 54.45 N, 75 45.23 W

Sunrise–winds 18 knots N-NW. Not the ideal wind angle yet, but if we are to landfall in Florida in the morning (always preferred) we needed to leave at daybreak (283 NM to go). I unlashed the tiller & eased the staysail sheets. Privateer took off through the waves and we jibed her around and sailed back on course toward the NE Providence Channel, Bahamas. It feels great to be on our way again!

With just 2 days left at sea, we’re on our final round of watch rotations now. Each on-watch we have now will be the last of its kind. It’s a very exciting time! Not only that, but the weather forecasts are shaping up very nicley, and it looks like clear sailing the rest of the way (for now). We’ll sail on under the high as it builds, and the wx charts are showing the high will park itself right over West Palm Beach for a day while we make landfall, which should bring us nice calm conditions for our approach from the Gulf Stream, and for finding our slip in the marina. The relief that I feel right now is so sweet. I am elated!! You can’t have this feeling without the pit in your stomach that you feel for days as you sail into worsening weather, as we did last week.

The seas were still pretty boisterous today and we sailed on pressed into the wind, at a 15-20 degree angle of heel. Our double-reef is still set in the Mainsail and the tiller pilot is managing the load well, as we have a very balanced rig. Just now, a freighter passed close by, not showing on AIS. They really sneak up on you a lot quicker when you don’t see the green triangles on the GPS chart-plotter… It’s a good reminder to always be looking over your shoulder. Many other freighters these past few days have altered course for us, after we made calls to the bridge.

It’s the big count-down now!!


March 15th, 2017
Date: March 15, 2017, noon Position: 26 0.36 N, 75 3.03 W

We reached latitude 26 N just before 0200 hrs and hove-to. We could see lightning on the horizon from the massive storm to our north. Good thing we are where we are! For the past 24 hours now we’ve basically remained in the same 6 NM patch of ocean, parked.

The first wave of west winds came on rapidly with a visible band of cloud stretching across the horizon. Our backed sails filled and Privateer created the classic “slick” that magically flattens the seas just before they reach the boat. It looks like you’re about to get clobbered by big breaking seas, when all of a sudden the foam crumbles and disappears just feet from the boat. I am very pleased at times like this to have the full keel and cutter rig–Privateer heaves-to like a textbook best-case scenario.

We spent a relaxing day, watching for traffic & calling a few freighters here & there that looked like they were going to pass close. Looks like we’re on the Gibraltar to Miami shipping lane… It’s amazing how many freighters there are criss-crossing the globe. We watched a movie in the afternoon and made tacos for dinner. Not much else to report here–we’re just patiently biding our time until the winds shift in our favor. Today was kind of a nice reflective pause for me to contemplate the voyage as a whole, before we make our busy landfall. We have come a long, long, long, long way! I was able to put in some sat phone calls to the marinas and boatyards today, and have arranged for a slip in West Palm Beach on arrival for a few days, and then on to Indiantown boatyard for the haul-out, scheduled March 23 at 1000 hrs. We’ll be sailing into the madness of Spring Break 2017 on the beaches of Florida–that’ll be pretty weird!

The Final Front(ier)

March 14th, 2017
Date: March 14, 2017, noon Position: 25 6.20 N, 74 34.50 W

We’ve weathered the cold front today. Throughout this last night, the winds slowly intensified and shifted around from the SE to the S, then SW and W into the afternoon. It was great sailing and the tiller pilot got a workout to the max, in 24-knot beam reaching. I really missed the wind vane today! As we came within 300 miles of destination my concerns about fuel usage eased. We’ve passed a point now where we could motor the whole rest of the way and still have reserve fuel. But it looks like the winds will remain with us, not always in our favor, and we should be able to sail most of the remainder of the passage.

Throughout the afternoon the seas stacked up as the winds clocked around ahead of the beam. We dogged down all the hatches and took a solid spray bath today. In the late afternoon we passed through a band of squalls and under a really dramatic line cloud. Once past the cloud the winds took a sharp turn to the NW (the direction we need to go). I disengaged the tiller pilot, giving it a kiss of gratitude, and trimmed the sails for close-haul. Privateer sails herself very well without any helm assistance when she is close-hauled with full Yankee, Storm Staysail, and double-reef Main all sheeted flat. Right now we’re on a course due north, on a 45 degree angle to the wind.

The plan is to reach a northern way-point of about 26 degrees, which we should reach around midnight, and then heave-to for the duration of the W and NW winds. We’ll probably remain locked in for 24-36 hours, until the winds finally clock to the north. As long as we stay above 26 degrees, we can then run down to the Providence Channel entrance through the Bahamas, and enjoy moderate to light tail-winds after that for the final 2 days of passage-making and the Gulf Stream crossing. Fingers crossed, anyway.

I’m looking forward to heaving-to and taking a shower, lounging around, and making some good meals on the stove! The highest winds are forecast to be only around 20 knots or so, so it should hopefully be a pretty mellow heave-to. Not even necessary, perhaps, but the winds do look quite a bit higher on the Florida Straits side of the Bahamas, and we don’t want to jump the gun and run into that mess. The biggest thing to keep an eye on will probably just be alerting the numerous cruise ships and tankers of our stationary location as they pass by. We hear word that the front that just swept us brought a blizzard to the US East coast! Glad to be on this end of it, below latitude 30. It looked really nasty up there on my weatherfax charts.

Planning Ahead

March 13th, 2017
Date: March 13, 2017, noon Position: 23 46.42 N, 72 40.74 W

All in all it was a very pleasant day today, besides the motoring. Nep has established himself as the ship’s cook this week, serving the captain breakfast in bed each morning. He’s perfected his salad recipe which he is pretty proud of, so we enjoyed today’s lunch of crisp cold lettuce as we watched the blue waves roll by.

Finally this evening the breeze kicked up a notch and we were able to shut down the engine. All day today I considered our options for the coming cold front and associated wind shifts forecast in the coming days. I’ve worked us to the north a bit, staying well east of the Bahamas. I want to set us up with plenty of sea room so that we have 360 degrees of hazard-free navigation options. I’m beginning to favor heaving-to for 18-24 hours once the head-winds start. I like the idea of sitting down below watching movies on the laptop rather than blasting close-hauled through the foam… With the monitor vane, no problemo–but given our circumstances I’d hate to see our new tiller pilot take a dump–I’m really beginning to like it as a calm-weather helmsman. Either way, we’ll see what happens. Sailing is all about perceiving the dangers before they become a threat. The Bahamas and their shallow waters are a definite threat! Give us the open sea, please. Our entrance through the islands is past “Hole-in-the-wall” and the “Devil’s Backbone”. Names like that are usually for reasons best kept wondering about. We’ll take our pleasure cruise through the islands once the weather and winds have eased to the NE.

Sailing with an electric autopilot is a bit like bicycling with low air in the tires. The sails are never presented quite correctly to the wind, and we slow down & lose some momentum as the boat hunts through the waves. Unless the electric pilot can interface with the wind-angle indicator, it’s an inferior and easily dangerous set-up if not watched constantly. Even with an interface, the masthead indicator signal relayed to a delayed mechanized arm cannot be as accurate or instant as the direct action of wind hitting the air-vane. I’m baffled that so many cruisers use hydraulic/electric autopilots only.

The last 500 miles of the voyage are always the longest, especially with motoring and fronts and winds shifts and currents on the horizon… The things I dream about now are blasting the boat down with a freshwater hose, reducing my weather worries to the landsman’s “will it be cloudy or sunny today?” and, most of all, Kelsey and Taz!! This is also the time of the voyage to step it up and be extra-professional. We’ve made it this far, and it’s time to give the last few days our all.

1/2 way to Florida

March 12th, 2017
Date: March 12, 2017, noon Position: 22 49.38 N, 70 47.83 W

A classic gear failure today: the ship’s head! For the past few days, the head (toilet) has developed an alarming habit of spraying a jet of fecal water from the flapper-valve every time we pumped to flush. The offending “waters” would leap up out of the bowl and spray under the seat & lid, and even onto your shirt and face, if you weren’t ginger about finessing the handle as you pumped. I tried probing the flapper but it only made the jet stronger! Finally today, the head failed to flush altogether. I was barely able to pump out the bowl back to clear seawater, and then promptly dumped a bunch of chemicals into the bowl, wiped down all surfaces, and taped the damn lid shut so we won’t “forget”. The ship’s head is closed for business until further notice. There’s a few things I won’t do at sea, and re-building the head is definitely one of them! For the remainder of the passage, it’s a 5-gallon bucket experience. I was planning on re-building the head upon haul-out anyway, so it’s just as well that we put the beast to rest. She, like the Monitor, has served us so well on this circumnavigation, and we only have a few more days at sea so it’s OK.

I spent the day mulling over all the options for when the north winds kick up in a few days. I’m hoping we can turn the corner at the north end of Eleuthera Island before the strongest winds. Then, we will have the option of pressing on into the winds, or run down to Nassaum the only really safe deep-water port in the Bahamas. I’m hoping we can press on because there’s a flat $300 fee to clear into the Bahamas, and Nassau sounds like a cruise-ship traffic jam–the kind of place better left unseen…however, if need be, any safe port in a storm is a sailor’s bliss, and we’re all about safety at sea.

After noon the winds went light again so our nice sailing that we started on at sunset yesterday came to an end, and we fired up the iron jib again. It is becoming clear that fuel economy will be an issue on this passage, so we are keeping the RPMs low to maintain optimum m.p.g. At the same time, we need to get as far north as possible to set up for the blow, so it’s a delicate balance.

The Final 1,000 Miles

March 11th, 2017
Date: March 11, 2017, noon Position: 21 23.37 N, 68 53.11 W

The moustaches are gone, and we are at sea once more. Privateer is laden with fresh provisions for her final 1,000 ocean miles, bound for Florida. We plan to haul the boat out of the water ASAP upon landfall so I can return to Minneapolis, Taz, and a very pregnant Kelsey! The forecast is a bit tricky, with many intense lows spinning off the US East coast. At 1,000 miles, this passage will be one of our shortest this year, but possibly the toughest.

We left BVI after 6 days. The timing worked out well, as we weathered an intense NE system that swept through the islands. It was great to be safe in harbor while the winds howled. At one point, a Hunter 34 sailboat broke free of her mooring and slammed into shore. I rowed out into the storm to her with a long coil of line, determined to pull her off the rocks. Another cruiser with a 30hp outboard saw me and came over to help. While he pulled with the outboard, I was able to turn the helm over and steer her into deep water as she grated off the rocks. We towed her back to her mooring and barely managed to hook her back on in the high winds. By this time nightfall was approaching, and the winds were increasing. Good thing she didn’t spend the whole night bouncing on the rocks!

We met up with my friends on the Josefina, the Swan 86 that I sailed from Fiji to NZ last year. It was great to catch up with those guys, and they offered me a crew position which the timing unfortunately doesn’t work out on–bummer! We did our laundry on the Josefina while sitting below-decks in the air conditioning, using the hi-speed internet, and enjoying meals put out by the cook. It’s a whole other world on a super-yacht!

Clearing out of Customs was an equally, if not more-so, nauseating experience than clearing in. I have never met ruder and more unhelpful officers than in that office in the BVI (and I’m from the USA). They’re probably related somehow to the pee-pee lady: extremely harsh demeanors, with massive chips on their shoulders. It was a teeth-gritting experience to get through the charade without losing my temper. They didn’t stamp our passports out or give us any exit papers, so hopefully we don’t have any problems clearing in to the US.

As we sailed away from Soper’s Hole, we met the fresh NE breezes–the tail-end of the big system that just blew through. Seas were lively and we made way on a beam reach. Right off the bat, I had perplexing issues with tuning the Monitor. She would pull the tiller one way, but not the other. I kept making small, and then bigger adjustments to the tiller blocks and air vane. We went along well for about 5 hours, but then the boat started rounding up in the higher gusts. Strange. A few miles more and at mile 36 out of BVI she rounded up a final time and I looked back to discover the Monitor rudder trailing, once more, by her safety line. Only this time it wasn’t the shear tube–it was the swivel mount above the hinge! The Monitor has suffered a fatal blow for this passage. This breakage is not repairable at sea. We quickly recovered the broken parts and brought out the electric tiller pilot. Fingers crossed that the electric pilot can steer us through the final 1,000 miles! We are putting it to the ultimate test. The Monitor people need to know that they should recommend carrying a full spare rudder and shaft for circumnavigating boats. The optimistic brochures of sailors bragging that they went around the world using only one set of control lines are either untruthful, or their product was used as an auxiliary to a hydraulic autopilot… At any rate, thank god this didn’t happen in the middle of the Indian or Atlantic ocean!

The electric pilot does a wonderful job at steering the boat in a perfectly straight line, however this is not how mother nature blows her winds. Unless we make constant adjustments to sail trim, the boat is always sailing slightly off of her optimum wind angle to the way her sails are set. Also, the wind angle must be constantly evaluated in order to prevent the risk of an accidental jibe. What this all translates to is that the boat sails slower through the water on her straight line, rather than the gentle “slalom” track the Monitor gave us when she kept the sails pegged on their optimum angle. After about 24 hours the winds gradually died away, until we were making barely 3 knots through the water. After growing tired of lurching and slatting around in the swell we were forced to fire up the “iron jib”. We rattled on for the next 24 hours in fair weather and slight seas.

Finally last night, a fair breeze sprang up from the NE, and we took off under sail again! All night long now we’ve been charging along at 6-7 knots under the bright full moon.

The winds are forecast to back around to the SE, then SW and W, and then blow harder out of the NW-NE in a few days time. All the way around the compass… Our strategy is to make all of our northing now before the bigger blow, so that we can run down to the SW for the final leg. I am worried that the electric pilot will be overwhelmed in the North winds if they are stronger than 17 knots, and that we may have a few days of hand-steering. I’m trying to set ourselves up with plenty of sea room for a heave-to if need be, not for sea-state, but for the option of not having to hand-steer for 48 hours… Hopefully this good breeze lasts long enough before going light again so that we can keep the motoring to a minimum. The hours go by a lot slower under engine than they do under sail!


March 3rd, 2017
Date: March 3, 2017, noon Position: 18 23.26 N, 64 42.08 W

We enjoyed our last passage sunset and sailed through the windy night with our storm sails set, for the final 100 NM approach. Timing worked out perfectly, and as we neared the shelf of the Virgin Islands the first morning light began to light up the eastern sky. Dawn arrivals are a passage-maker’s best hope!

The small islands rose up before us like a miniature dramatic version of Prince William Sound, swells smashing onto the jagged cliffs. As we entered Sir Francis Drake Passage I was pleased to spy Peter Island, Dead Chest Island (of Pirate fame) and Privateer Point, all off the port bow. And just for Privateer, a vibrant rainbow arced down out of the sky ending at exactly the sea cave where real lost pirate treasure was found on Dead Chest. This was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” which I had just re-read on this passage.

In the lee of Dead Chest the swells died away as we gained the protection of the channel. A heavy band of rain swept in from the ocean and hammered hard down on the boat. Again, this was perfect timing–Privateer and her sails got an ideal and very badly needed freshwater bath on arrival–score! Boat freshly car-washed, the wind funneled down the channel and we coasted along under Yankee alone, after dropping and stowing our storm sails. The good wind carried us all the way down to the west end of Tortola to our destination. Even after we rolled up the Yankee we were making 3.9 knots under bare poles and the Monitor steered a perfect course. Unbelievable. It’s like she didn’t want to stop!

All passages come to an end, though, and we busily made the transition from open-ocean sailing to preparing for harbor. Lines coiled, gear stowed, downwind pole lowered, etc. We finally fired up the engine for all of about 10 minutes as we cut up into Soper’s Hole harbor, which is chock-a-block full of boats on moorings. We threaded our way defensively through the boats, and witnessed some very alarming seamanship. Since we’re in the “charter boat capitol” of the Caribbean, sailing among the other boats here is basically like trying to survive crossing a racetrack infested with 16-year-old drivers trying to impress their girlfriends. We carefully edged over to the far side of the harbor and picked up a mooring buoy well away from the action.

At 0917 hrs, 29 days and 4,150 NM sailed after leaving St Helena, we did it!!!! Way to go Privateer! The long passage…and now we were tethered to the harbor, the helm abandoned. Nep and I looked at each other, stunned, because at that moment we suddenly experienced a complete physical stillness. Roosters crowed lazily into the morning as we both noted that for the past month, our bodies have been in constant, rigorous motion. The stillness was shocking, unexpected.

After a few minutes of bewilderment and congratulations, we got right to work pumping up the dinghy so I could get to shore to meet Customs and Immigration before the heat of the day set in. As I drifted away from Privateer with the boat papers & passports in hand, I got my first glimpse of Privateer from the outside. Her port-side quarter and rudder are covered with a thick mat of goose-neck barnacles and scum well above the waterline, almost halfway up the side to the rail. This is because we spent almost all of our time on starboard tack, with the port side hull underwater for most of the passage. It brought back memories of arrival to the Marquesas, where we discovered them on starboard side after being on port tack–all the other boats arriving from long passages had them too. To me, the green scum line and goose-neck barnacles are the proud tattoos of a long sea voyage.

The Customs and Immigration office was crowded with condescending rich white people and frustrating surly officers who went out of their way to return the attitude. Also, the juxtaposition of rapid transition from the open ocean freedom to office jockeys with badges, combined with sleep deprivation and post-passage adrenaline wearing off usually makes me feel sick and dizzy while clearing in to a new country. The clearing-in procedure cost $10.20 USD. Despite being the BRITISH Virgin Islands, British pounds are not accepted here (only USD) and all I had were pounds from St. Helena. Things were looking a bit hopeless as the officials shrugged and offered no help, and seemed overly-satisfied to tell me that there was no ATM anywhere nearby, no idea, blank stares. Fortunately, a kind American stranger in the line behind me handed me a $10 bill with a smile and insisted that I not pay him back. I will put this in the karma bank and look forward to the day I can return to favor to another stranger! By then, I had become a bit of a curiosity in the office with my unkempt beard and long fingernails (bad luck to clip nails and cut hair on the boat). The Immigration officer asked where we were sailing to from here. When I said “Florida” he said “NO, that is too far. Where are you sailing to next?” By this point I kind of lost my patience and just wanted to get my papers and get out of there ASAP. “We just sailed here from ALASKA so I think we can attempt the sail to FLORIDA, sir.” I got the hairy eyeball as he filled in the box: [Florida]. Jesus Christ.

Passports stamped, I rowed back out to the boat and got Nep, and we went about the more important business of walking around on land and finding our way to Pusser’s bar for celebratory (and strong!) Margaritas! The Caribbean afternoon heat is oppressive and our legs and bodies were sore from the short walk to the bar. We lazed around until the sun got a bit lower to walk back around the harbor.

Our beards were really bothering us in the prickly heat and I had packed the razors in our shore bag, and we stopped at the marina bathrooms to shave (remember-bad luck to cut hair on the boat!) Well, about 7/8 of the way through shaving, a very unfortunate lady barged in to the men’s bathroom, in what I can only describe as a “Privateer” experience.

“NOOO–you cannot do that here! Get out!” She yelled. “WHat?” we said. “You go pee-pee, then go. Pee-pee, then go! Not for that–you cannot DO that here! Get out! Go AWAY! You go pee-pee then go!” “Okay, okay, we will just finish up h–” I tried. “NOOOOO. Pee-pee, wash hands, then go!!” She was very animated at this point, gesticulating at the toilets, the sink, and the door. Her pitch raised into an elongated repetative monologue. There was sharp transition where polite reasoning ended and open hostility went both ways. “Okay, we got it–pee-pee, then go!” Nep shouted. This lady was actually not going to let us finish shaving our beards! “Yes, you go pee-pee! Only for pee-pee, not shave! Pee-pee, rinse hands, go!” “Can we go poo-pee?” I asked.

She stared us down as we rowed away, and like true Privateers we pretended to get out onto another boat. Sheesh! Not a good first impression of the country. The blatant & garish display of wealth, the open contempt from the service industry, and the heat seem to ignite a nasty vibe in paradise. We laughed all the way back to the boat, however, because the pee-pee lady caused one very funny thing to happen: Moustaches! Nep and I had been saving the ‘staches for last, so that we could take a funny picture in the bathroom & send it back to the family before shaving them off. It was precisely at this point in time that the fateful pee-pee lady intervened! So, we have resolved that for our duration in the Caribbean, our moustaches will remain, for better or worse! 😉

Across the Atlantic, Into the Caribbean Sea!

March 2nd, 2017
Date: March 2, 2017, noon Position: 17 35.43 N, 62 49.58 W

A banner milestone day today! Our brave and weather-worn gal Privateer has crossed another ocean, with the Caribbean sea is now rushing under her keel. We are almost one month at sea now out of St. Helena, and 45 days and 5,600 miles out of Cape Town, Africa. Three years ago to the day, Privateer set out from San Francisco, outward bound for the long voyage to the Marquesas. Today, we are winding down what is the longest voyage I will probably ever make at sea! Three years, three oceans, two children, seven seas, and millions of waves later…

The glowing loom of the lights of Antigua rose up from the sea, a surreal sight after a month of empty horizon. Like a gift from god, the winds abated and shifted 15 degrees to the East as we rounded under the island and sailed off to the NW. The timing could not have been any more perfect! Daybreak revealed a string of volcanic islands, laid out like a string of pearls–each island its own country.

All day today we cracked along smartly still under storm sails, in 25-30 knots of strong winds. We flew up the windward coasts of the island chain, admiring the islands from a safe distance. It’s a real pity that we have to blow past all these interesting places, but the goal of returning to Kelsey & the nearing due date kept my resolve unquestioning and absolute. Privateer ate up the ocean miles and loves the beam reach sailing of the Caribbean!

Tomorrow morning should see us making landfall at Tortola, BVI. Nep and I are due for a much-needed rest and re-provision! We talked about what we’re going to do when we get to land. I’m looking forward to ignoring the weather for a few days. Hopefully our legs will work! We’ll be like those astronauts returning to Earth from the space station climbing out of the capsule at sea.

From Tortola, we have only a week or so more at sea before Florida landfall. We have several route options and if needed, could actually island-hop with very little blue-water distance. For now, we’re going to focus on making a safe landfall and getting a good rest when we get to shore.

Feb 28-Mar 1, Cape George Cadillac

March 1st, 2017
Date: March 1, 2017, noon Position: 16 49.63 N, 60 20.32 W

For the past 48 hours Privateer has battled squall after squall after squall after squall after squall. During the day they’re easy to see, but they tend to sneak up on us during the moonless nights. First, we’ll see an absence of stars, then feel the temperature drop a bit. The boat starts pulling to starboard as the main fills, and wind speeds accelerate. She’s trimmed well to handle the steady 25 knots of NE winds we’re experiencing on a 120 degree wind angle, but as soon as the line cloud passes overhead we need to drive down on a 150 degree wind angle to keep the boat from rounding up and being broad-sided by the breakers. Not fun!

The dark squally nights are all part of the package, I suppose. Another white hair in the beard. Last night we got clobbered by a particularly nasty rogue breaker that exploded over top of the boat. The dodger windows momentarily looked like a jacuzzi with full jets running! Seawater managed to squeeze its way into every crack in the boat, primarily soaking our beds. My sheets are so salty now that climbing into bed I feel like a mummy dressing itself in wet gauze. Daydreams of doing laundry and airing out the cushions on Tortola…

The winds and seas began to pipe up quite a bit more, with 40 knots in the worst of the squalls. At daybreak on Feb 28, I made the decision to convert down to storm sails, and what a good idea that was! Privateer is now under a “boomerang” sail plan. The mainsail and boom are safely lashed in the boom gallows, and the trysail flies smartly on her dedicated track. Storm jib is flying on the inner forestay, and we still have a scrap of yankee poled out to windward to keep speeds up & take the punch out of the following seas. We look more like a hang glider than a sailboat now.

With 30-40 knots of wind and storm sails flying, Privateer drives like a Cadillac! Smooth, heavy, and powerful. She clips along at a safe 5-6 knots and slices through the waves like a hot knife. Best of all, once the storm sails were set, my stress levels dropped to zero and elation kicked in. This is what Privateer was built for!!

In between periods of squalls I get what sleep I can and let Nep take over. I need to conserve energy in order to be fully alert for the duration of the spells. We are sailing almost due west now, on our approach to the Caribbean just south of Antigua. Wind angles are fantastic, with all winds from behind. We are riding through the squalls in safety and control, though basic functions like cooking & showering etc have ceased for the time being.